As of June 24, 2022, Roe v. Wade, a landmark case that legalized abortion nationally, has fallen. In a 6-3 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that the right to obtain an abortion upheld by Roe v. Wade was unconstitutional, and that it is up to the states to deal with the matter of abortion how they see fit. The high court issued its majority opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, arguing that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”
The recent overturn is not a shock, however. Just a month earlier, a draft of the majority opinion was leaked by Politico. Though it is unclear who leaked the draft, one thing is certain: US citizens are now convinced that the Supreme Court is political. In a survey conducted by Quinnipiac University, researchers found that 63% of Americans believe that decisions made by the court are on the basis of political opinions as opposed to the framework laid out in the Constitution.
At the moment, it’s difficult to determine if the court has become a polarized institution, but acknowledging the adverse effects of this decision is not. Roe v. Wade guaranteed women access to an abortion until viability, which is typically around 22-24 weeks, regardless of the state they lived in. Now, with the ball in the states’ court, abortion legality depends on the political views of the state’s government. 26 states are predicted to enact some sort of ban, with 13 of these states having trigger bans– extremely restrictive laws that are to take effect immediately after Roe v Wade’s overturn.
With over half the nation restricting access to abortion, women, particularly poor women of color, will suffer the most. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in comparison to white women, the likelihood of getting an abortion is nearly four times higher for black women. This is largely due to a lack of health insurance and contraceptives in underserved communities. Further, maternal mortality rates for black women are four times higher than for white women. This combined with the fact that women of color reside mainly in states with restrictive abortion laws will cause black maternal mortality rates to skyrocket. These women will resort to perforating their uteruses with coat hangers, ingesting poisonous liquids, catapulting themselves off a stairwell, or have an unlicensed individual perform the procedure because they cannot afford to transport themselves to a “safe state.”
Roe’s reversal is not just a health and racial issue; it’s an economic one as well. Dr. Foster, a professor at University of California, San Francisco, explains in her Turnaway Study that “for those who are denied abortions, [there is] an immediate drop in full-time employment.” Forced births without access to affordable childcare, paid maternity leave, and the motherhood penalty will push these women to leave the workforce, increasing poverty rates and causing the GDP to stunt. The Supreme Court’s decision will also reduce the amount of control a woman has over her economic security. Adding a child into the equation is costly; and with childcare averaging out to over $14,000 a year, women carrying out an unwanted pregnancy only have a short amount of time to plan accordingly. Meanwhile, more economically privileged women, usually white women, will be able to dodge these effects as they have the means to travel to a “safe state” to obtain the procedure.
“People who seek abortions are disproportionately people of color, so it’s already hitting a population that tends to be systemically disadvantaged,” says Dr. Foster. Roe v. Wade’s overturn will “exacerbate [health, economic, and racial] disparities.”
Are “safe states” really safe?
The ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling don’t end here. Now, the 16 “safe states” along with DC must produce an effective plan that mitigates any issues that arise from the massive influx of women traveling to receive the procedure. These states must determine how to allocate its resources and attend to patients in a timely manner. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that some abortions will be delayed, and women will consequently die.
Want to help protect abortion access? Here’s how
This is a war on women’s bodies, and the fight for bodily autonomy has yet to end. It’s crucial to get involved; now more than ever. These are some ways you can help:
Attend protests: Using your First Amendment right to assemble is essential. If you would like to participate in an abortion rally or event, visit the We Won’t Go Back map to find one near you.
Be aware of abortion laws within your state: Not sure about your state’s laws? Check out the Center for Reproductive Rights’ interactive “What if Roe Fell?” map to find out.
Donate to trusted abortion funds: All money donated to these funds are used to support women throughout the abortion process.
Reach out to your senators and urge them to vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA): This federal legislation would protect abortion access in every US state, despite Roe’s overturn.
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“We Won't Go Back: Events Map.” WeWontGoBack.com, 2022,